Written by Isolde Martyn
Review by Margaret Barr

The aftermath of the French Revolution leaves orphaned aristocrat Fleur de Montbulliou starving and destitute. At one stroke, through her marriage to a dying man, she gains a new name, an inheritance, and the chance to build a new future for herself in Paris. Once there, she’s unable to avoid the attention of a National Assembly Deputy, or allay his suspicions. Raoul de Villaret, an artist turned politician, is investigating whether the lovely widow murdered her husband.

Fleur’s inheritance includes debts, an old house, and a disreputable restaurant with a stage. Determined to support herself and others, she becomes a businesswoman. Raoul and his fellow politicians flock to her establishment for the performances of the saucy and mysterious La Coquette. With success comes visibility, and as Fleur grows more politically astute, she inadvertently incites the wrath of the citizenry.

The worlds of art and revolution, theatre and commerce collide with increasing violence, and Raoul must protect Fleur from harm, even as he probes her supposed crimes. As his muse, she re-awakens his desire to paint. Their risky love affair seems doomed by her brother’s return, the discovery of how intimately and dangerously their past lives have been entwined, and by murder and imprisonment.

In addition to her compelling, well-drawn protagonists, Martyn vividly depicts a supporting cast of fictional and historical figures, famous and obscure. This outstanding novel cements her reputation for exceptional romantic historical fiction.